#2024 | reading update 2

Reading update for Jan-Mar here.

In the last three months:


The Sun on my Head by Geovani Martins
A Map of Betrayal by Ha jin
We, the Survivors by Tash Aw
Critical Incidents by Lucie Whitehouse
Hotel World by Ali Smith
The Wallcreeper by Nell Zink
South and West by Joan Didion
Swimming Home by Deborah Levy
The Changeling by Victor LaValle
This is going to hurt by Adam Kay
Delayed Rays of a Star by Amanda Lee Koe
Broccoli and other tales of food love by Lara Vapnyar
Lanny by Max Porter
The Lonesome Bodybuilder

Book of the month | We, the Survivors by Tash Aw | This is going to hurt by Adam Kay


Not that Kind of Girl
by Lena Dunham
The Farm by Joanne Ramos
Suicide Club by Rachel Heng
Crazy Cat Lady
Too Fat Too Slutty Too Loud by Anne Helen Petersen
Your Duck is My Duck by Deborah Eisenberg
A Free Life by Ha Jin
My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

Book of the month | My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell


Inferior by Angela Saini
Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli
10 minutes and 38 seconds in this strange world by Elif Shafak
Lie with Me by Philippe Besson, Translated by Molly Ringwald
This is my family: New Singapore Plays Vol 2 by Checkpoint Theatre
How we Disappeared by Jing Jing Lee
Hereditary (Screenplay)
Insiduous (Screenplay)

Book of the month | Lie with me by Philippe Besson | How We Disappeared by Jing Jing Lee

I’ve read less than I’d like to – slower than I’d like to, essentially, but I have reasons.. !!

Reasons or excuses I suppose, depending on how you look at them. Regardless, hoping to turn this around in the second half of the year, which I am sure will be spent reading infinitely more.


#2101 | reading update

So far in 2019:


If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin
The Plotters by Un-su Kim
Travel Junkie by Julia Dimon
A River in Darkness by Masaji Ishikawa
The Effect by Lucy Prebble
The Gritterman by Orlando Weeks
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Dear Ijeawele by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche
An Amorous Discourse from the Suburbs of Hell by Deborah Levy
Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny
Feast Days by Ian MacKenzie
A Public Space issue 27
Swing Time by Zadie Smith
Mary Ventura and the 9th Kingdom by Sylvia Plath

Book of the month

If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin / The Effect by Lucy Prebble


Book Love by Debbie Tung
Mr Salary by Sally Rooney
Come Rain or Come Shine by Kazuo Ishiguro
Becoming by Michelle Obama
A Thousand Years of Good prayers by Yiyun Li
Certain American States by Catherine Lacey
Waiting by Ha Jin
Heartburn by Norah Ephron
Dept of Speculation by Jenny Offill

Book of the month

A thousand years of good prayers by Yiyun Li


Educated by Tara Westover
A Manifesto for Arts Funding by Alfian Sa’at
China is Messing with your Mind by Bilahari Kausikan
The Power of a People by Kuik Shiao-Yin
The Silhouette of Oppression by Kirsten Han
A Good time to be a Girl by Helena Morrissey
The Authentic Lie by Pandora Sykes
Vox by Christina Dalcher
Hot Milk by Deborah Levy
I WILL SURVIVE : Personal Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transexual Stories in Singapore edited by Leow Yangfa
The Leavers by Lisa Ko

Book of the month

Edcuated by Tara Westover

It is now April – I have read The Sun on my Head by Geovani Martins, and A Map of Betrayal by Ha jin. I am now re-reading Tash Aw’s We, The Survivors, which is launching today in the UK.

Good times.


#2086 | Favorite books of 2018


Hey guys,

Here we are at the end of the year. In wrapping up 2018 and bringing us into 2019 I offer you the words of those far wiser, kinder, and smarter than I; may the new year bring us nuance and perspective. May we all find ourselves a little bit more.

The best books I read this year:

The book that wrecked me:
Forgotten country by Catherine Chung

The book that perfectly encapsulated my feelings about motherhood: Motherhood by Sheila Heti

The book that changed my mind about poetry:
Nobody Told Me by Holly McNeal

The book that everyone got confused with the Sally Rooney one but that I actually liked more:
Ordinary people by Diana Evans

The book that was so beautiful and authentically southeast asian and that gives me hope as someone writing from the diaspora:
We the survivors by Tash Aw (Forthcoming April 2019)

The book that made me laugh and laugh and laugh:
Single Carefree Mellow by Katherine Heiny

The book that retold greek myth with modern magic and took my breath away:
The Porpoise by Mark Haddon (Forthcoming May 2019)

The book that was so lucid and perfect and that you should definitely buy for every new parent:
Dear Ijeawele by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche

The book I loved so much it actually hurt me when it ended:
The Pumpkin Eater by Penelope Mortimer

The book that made me wary of pasta for a long time
: The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante

The book that was uncool to like but that i liked anyway:
Milkman by Anna Burns

The book that was super fun and that you should definitely pick up: My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

The book that I re-read so many times it’s getting almost embarrassing:
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche

The book that I found totally amazing and painful and inspiring and truthfully asian
: A Thousand Years of Good Prayers by Yiyun Li

The book that made me want to immediately and effectively become the author’s friend:
The Cost of Living by Deborah Levy

The book that was actually a screenplay but that was so totally incredible that I’m including it in a book list anyway:
The Inheritance by Matthew Lopez

The best short stories I read this year:

We love you Crispina
by Jenny Zhang (found in collection – Sour Heart)

The Finkelstein 5
by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah (found in collection – Friday Black)

After a Life
by Yiyun Li (found in collection – A Thousand Years of Good Prayers)

Waugh by Bryan Washington (found in The New Yorker Fiction)

The Husband Stitch by Carmen Maria Marchado (found in Granta Mag)

Welcome to your Authentic Indian Experience™
by Rebecca Roanhorse (found in Apex Mag)

The best essays I read this year:

Work Life Balance Should Not Be Class Privilege
by Teo You Yenn (found in This is what inequality looks like)

A Lotus for Michelle
by Morgan Jerkins (found in This will be my undoing)

Sometimes You Make Your Rapist Breakfast by Marissa Korbel (found in Harpers Bazaar)

On Eating Alone in Paris by Stephanie Rosenbloom (found in The New York Times)

Why Women Still Can’t Have It All by Anne-Marie Slaughter (found in The Atlantic)


The book I didn’t ‘get’:
The White Book by Han Kang

The book I rolled my eyes so hard at:
Fresh Complaint by Jeffrey Eugenides

The book I hated so much I actually didn’t finish:
The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh

Also, reading update:

I finally bought a kindle.

See you in 2019 x


#2109 | I’m with you in Rockland – City Lights Bookstore San Francisco


San Francisco, California

I make it a point to visit at least one bookstore in each new city I go to, but with City Lights Bookstore, it was more of a pilgrimage. I don’t even know how to describe City Lights in a way that would remotely do it justice, but lets start with this: it was the place that published Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and subsequently got embroiled in an obscenity trial as a result, which was eventually dismissed under the First Amendment protection in American court because it had “the slightest redeeming social importance”. This paved the way for previously banned books to be published in America again and now its a designated world heritage site. WILD OR WHAT.

Anyway. Today was my last day in San Francisco, an insane four-day trip on agenda for Disney Pixar. I have so much to say about that, but that’s a post for another day. My girlfriend Kate flew down from New York to meet me in San Fran, but she left after lunch today to meet her cousins a town over, and so I found myself with a block of free alone time in the bay. I pottered down to the bookstore (an adventure in itself, figuring out public transport in SF city, because they DONT LABEL THEIR BUSSTOPS) and eventually a bus 30 got me somewhere near and I walked the rest of the way.


The view while walking over




If I’m not wrong the founder of City Lights is BFFs with George Whitman, owner of Shakespeare and Company in Paris

The bookstore physically reminds me of Three Lives and Company in New York – one of my favourite bookstores in the world. It is not an architectural showpiece like Los Angeles’s The Last Bookstore, which I visited last year end and loved as well – it’s more cozy and grungy. There are hand-drawn signs everywhere with slogans like EDUCATE YOURSELF, READ 14 HOURS A DAY and FREE SPEECH ZONE which I suppose reflects the bookstore’s iconic status as a proponent of free speech back in the fifties. It also has a very intimate feel, and everyone there moves with an air of reverence, almost.

As well as being a bookstore, it’s also a publishing house, and that was what gave it its cult status back in the fifties because it published what was considered the most alternative literature back then. Ginsberg’s Howl is one, but Jack Kerouac’s poetry books were all published by them, and he also spent a lot of time there writing his novels. Most people will know Kerouac by the super common ON THE ROAD BY JACK KEROUAC penguin book passport cover which Penguin has mass produced for the hipster demographic, but he’s also one of the key figures for the Beat generation back then.*

*The Beat generation is an american post-war literary movement that explored culture and politics, and that often gets described as bohemian or hippie culture hahahahaha cos they’re all about SPONTANEOUS LIVING and NON CONFORMITY


A shelf of their latest published works. I bought a Bukowski book from this shelf

It sounds terribly academic when I phrase it that way, but the effect of the above was that for the first time ever, literature became a popular movement in the US. I think the only time, lol, cos after that period everyone just went back to watching TV. But anyway the point is that City Lights’s role in creating beatnik culture is super iconic in American literature ok. And till today, people are welcome to just show up at the bookstore and sit and read anywhere they want in their three floors. Whether there’s space is a different story lah cos it’s still a bit of a squeeze, but the result is that the entire atmosphere is humming with an adoration for the printed word.


Level three is the most spacious of the three floors, and sells only poetry, much of which is published by City Lights.

They host events, readings, and book launches up here too. I wish I’d been in town when an event was happening, but chances are I wouldnt have been able to get in anyway given how tiny the space is. I think forty people in this room, max?

This room was actually slightly intimidating because the stairs creak going up, so evernote already on level three can hear you coming, and the dude sitting in the corner looked super grumpy when I walked in cos obviously I was disrupting his reading ~flow~ I mean, ok, dude. It’s a free world!

They’re also pretty famous for their pocket poetry series which sells good poetry in consumable forms, via little pocket books. I bought the Howl one for a girlfriend because it is obviously the most iconic thing in this bookstore. I mean the owners went to court for an OBSCENITY TRIAL because they dared publish it lolololol HOW TO NOT BUY? #consumerism #ironic


If you’re more into fiction, and are too shy to talk to the staff for recommendations (strangely, many bookworms are introverts, so I think something went wrong with me somewhere cos i LOVE talking to strangers), there’s helpful little labels with staff picks and little descriptions to help you along. Many bookstores do this, and in retrospect I suppose its geared towards catering for the introvert nature of obsessive readers.

You also wont find chick lit here – this style of bookstores (as opposed to chain bookstores) are very curated, and City Lights in particular specialises in world literature, progressive politics, and the arts, so the book selection reflects that. I actually saw a book that was titled Have Black Lives Ever Mattered? by Mumia Abu-Jamal which was published by City Lights, which basically tells you everything you need to know about the bookstore. (It’s very highly rated btw, with a 4.3 on goodreads. Not that goodreads is the definitive guide to great books.. but Alice Walker also had a lot of praise for this book, which I can get behind.)

Anyway, I didn’t want to take up too much space hovering around the shelves and also, I had a flight to make, so I bought three books and left after awhile. Would have gotten more, but luggage space was an issue. At checkout, the hardest thing I had to say this whole trip was to the cashier..

“I’ve changed my mind about these (5) books.”
“You sure honey? They’re good.” (a stab to my heart.)
“I’m sure.. I have no more luggage space.”


Still pretty pleased with my buys! It comes in this old school brown paper bag, which I had to carry around the rest of the day WITH PRIDE before getting back to my luggage storage facility and heading to the airport.

The bookstore is also right next to Jack Kerouac alley. I dont know why they called it that cos it’s just this tiny alley that leads to Chinatown, so I googled it and turns out it used to be a garbage dumping spot until the bookstore owner pitched to San Francisco Board of Supervisors to transform the alleyway, and so now it’s like another iconic place full of street art and poetry engraved into the floor I guess. I mean in theory it’s pretty nice but in real life the alleyway smells like weed and has suspicious looking people smoking joints on the floor. So.. ok. It’s not dangerous la, so its still worth walking down, it’s tiny and it’ll only take like three minutes.


You pop out on the other end in Chinatown! Which is pretty funny because now there’s a resurgence of interest in Asian literature so its like you go into this Western literary route of passage and pop out in china hahahahahaha.

Ok after that I just walked around till I hit the pier again, then I got my luggage and went to the airport. So happy that I managed to squeeze in a bookstore visit in SF, I think the moment i passed the threshold of the bookstore was when I truly fell in love with San Francisco – prior to that we had gotten along amiably, pleasantly. But the bookstore to me represented so much more that I couldnt help adoring the city vis a vis its lens – and I suggest you all take a gander if youre in town too x

City Lights Bookstore and Publishers
261 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133


#2093 | Five ways to read more daily


Hey guys,

So, as a follow up to my previous post, I thought I’d address one of the questions that’s been coming in quite a bit – the question of how I incorporate reading into my day to day life. Actually, this question has been coming in a lot, ever since my 2016 year-end wrap post (The Year of Learning) where I detailed each book I read in 2016, almost all along the lines of: I want to read more, but I have no time..

Well, newsflash guys. No one has more time than another person. We all make time.

Anyway, I thought I’d once and for all detail the ways that I incorporate reading into my life. This post is for those of you who already want to read more and just dont know how, so please don’t leave comments saying like “oh but i could be watching tv” or “but what if I want to sleep more” because that’s not the point ok, the point is that you WANT TO READ MORE. Okay? Okay.

Here goes.

1. Read during your transitionary hours.


I count transitory hours as hours you spend not actually doing your work or social life or whatever, but time spent transiting from one stage to the other. So Home to Work. Work to Dinner. Dinner to Home. Etcetera. I have said this several times on different platforms, but I might as well say it here too. One major pet peeve of mine is realising how much time I’ve wasted on trains, buses, so on and so forth, just mindlessly flipping through Facebook or instagram, looking at dumb articles I don’t care about or that will never affect my life in any way. We spend an insane amount of time on social media as a generation, and while I love my platforms and the way they help me stay updated on my friends’ lives and so on, there is such a thing as spending too much time on it. I honestly don’t care about half the videos I watch on my social feeds, about this fish that did this amazing thing or that turkey that couldnt stop walking in a circle. And then you look up and you’ve reached your train stop and an hour has gone by. A whole hour!

Instead, start carrying books around with you. Read on trains, buses, taxis, whatever. Assuming your commute to work is a healthy forty minutes, that’s forty minutes of solid reading per day. Don’t look at your phone for those forty minutes, the world will go on fine without you, it wont fall apart, especially not at freaking 8am in the morning.

This is also one of the major reasons why I very much like taking the train back at night, especially on nights I’m so tired I’m tempted to cab home (I mean, cmon, with all the Uber and Grab price wars, it’s getting seriously tempting…). I really like my transitory reading times, and the fact that I can read in a well lit train all the way home is really a huge plus for me, especially when I’m in the middle of a super good book and want all the time I can get to read it!


2. Keep books at your workplace.

I always have three or four books at my office space because I might want something to read when I’m having lunch. To be fair, this is because I usually have lunch at my desk, it’s a freelancer thing. When youre paying rent for your desk you dont really want to go out and take nice lunch breaks because ITS HUSTLE TIME BABY. And it’s usually a quick lunch – so usually I either eat at my desk or go to the roof with my takeout, and get in one or two chapters there.

Another thing that I find happens, is that sometimes I get really mentally tired at my desk when I’ve been working on a project for too long. So sometimes I give myself twenty minute breaks in between to refresh my mind by reading a chapter of a book, and after that when I go back to my work I find that taking my mind completely away from the project and coming back to it later renders me fresher and able to see it more objectively!

3. Be flexible with your reading habits.


By this I mean, be open to reading not just paper bound books, but books in different forms. I know it’s not always feasible to carry a book around with you when youre carrying too many things that day or if you just dont have space in your bag, so then just read it off your phone!

I have a kindle fire tablet that I bought from Amazon during a black friday sale for like fifty bucks two years ago, and I use that cos it’s insanely tiny and essentially a portable library at my fingertips. But even then, sometimes I ditch the tablet for my phone’s kindle app, because it syncs my books across in the cloud, and I can pick up from the exact page I left off in my phone! This, of course, requires that you either procure free copies of books online, or purchase them from the Amazon e-bookstore, but I find that e-books tend to be cheaper and go on sale frequently, so why not?

Another app that I find very useful is the Overdrive app that I discovered last year. As you can tell, I am all about the app life. But seriously, though, Overdrive is awesome. It’s a library app in your phone where you can “borrow” titles from your neighbourhood library and read them for free on your phone or desktop app. So because I am a member of the National Library (i think every Singaporean is, automatically?) and also NTU’s library, I can just search for titles that I want to read from their electronic book repository, and loan them out into my phone. Then, just like normal library books, after a certain number of days they just expire and you have to return them or renew the loan. It’s insane! We are living in the future!


And when I said be flexible with your reading habits, I didn’t just mean learning to transition between paper and e-books. Audio books are also a great option. I have friends who listen to audio books when they drive, or when they go to the gym. I mean, it’s a great way of consuming content when you don’t necessarily have your hands or eyes free to hold and read a book. You can borrow audiobooks from Overdrive, mentioned above, or purchase them from Audible (first book free). For shorter reads, you can even listen to them on youtube. I super love listening to Neil Gaiman’s short stories on youtube, because he frequently reads his own stories so you dont just get some random voice. And I also really enjoyed listening to the War of the Worlds radio drama – it’s so realistic that when it was played in the UK back in 1938, people rioted and panicked because they honestly thought aliens had invaded. Haha!

I mean, of course you’ll personally prefer one form over the other. I personally love reading hard copy books, nothing quite beats the experience of the turned page for me. But I’m not violently opposed to the other two forms – at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter to me how I’ve read it, just that I have.

4. Get short stories delivered directly to your email inbox


So maybe you want to read more, but dont have the stamina for full novels, or maybe don’t want to commit to purchasing entire books (though you really should). That’s fine too. Many of my favourite pieces of literature come in the form of short stories or poems, which I read online for free. These are easily digestible, low commitment, and you can also read them anywhere as long as you have an internet connection – on your phone, at your workplace, while waiting for your friends to show up for dinner, while queueing for lunch, etcetera.

One of my favourite tips for easily reading more is signing up for the Library of America’s free Story of the Week email service. It’s not super widely publicised, but you can sign up at this link, and they will email you a free short story every single week! And they’re good stories too, all of which have been published in reputable places, and most of which I’ve enjoyed. And as workaholic singaporeans, we are already so used to checking and reading our emails all the time, that this is really the perfect fit for us.

Other ways of getting stories delivered to you is to sign up for the newsletters of really great fiction magazine sites. My favourites are Catapult Magazine, which has a fantastic fiction repertoire, The New Yorker’s Fiction Magazine, The New York Times Modern Love Column, the Two Serious Ladies tumblr blog, and for very short fiction (under a thousand words) – I like Wigleaf.

5. Commit to a bedtime routine with books


Ok fine, this is me reading a book at a party, but you get the idea

This is as simple as it sounds – it’s just carving out time to read. You know how some people schedule in time for exercise and treat it like any other appointment? Do the same for books. If you know you want to read more, then make an effort and commitment to doing it!

Personally, for me this takes the form of an hour’s ‘no electronics’ reading time before bed each night. This started because I read somewhere that looking at any sort of electronic screen an hour before you go to bed affects your quality of sleep + how easily you fall asleep, and I seriously love my sleep. So I started making an effort to take an hour before bed each night to read. I keep a line of books by my bed head, and change those books every month or so, so there’s always new stuff on hand to read. How do I have so many books to change around, you ask? Well, I buy them – either at bookstores, online at bookdepository.com (free worldwide shipping!), or at those pop up fairs. More than half the books I’ve bought were like five bucks and below; I am not opposed to buying somebody’s cast offs, to me that just means that someone else had the chance to love them too. And I get a lot of books as gifts, people have just taken to buying me books on my birthday and on other occasions because everyone knows I read and I’d like to think people get excited about sharing their favorite reads with another person too 🙂

Now, of course, realistically, I am not able to do this every night. Some nights I am too damned tired. Some nights I get home late after going out with friends and all I want to do is crawl into bed and sleep. Some nights my brain will no longer function to absorb words (please remember, after all, that my day to day work when I’m not filming involves nonstop reading and writing, essentially), and so I’d rather watch a bedtime movie instead. And some nights I can only manage half an hour, not one full one.

But I think the point is that I have mentally committed to my hourly bedtime routine, and so more often than not, I do. And the hour of reading I get before bed adds up so fast, before I know it, I’ve gotten through two, three books a week, and am ever the better for it.


I also never travel without a book. But as travel is not a daily thing, I’m not including it in this list of daily habits for reading.

So yes. Hope some of these are useful to you – I mean, I think they are super solid tips, so boo to you if you dont think so! Hahahahaha. But yeah like I said at the start of this post, i expect that I’m preaching to the converted lah. This post is really for people who love to read and want to read more, or who want to start reading more even though they are not habitual readers, and so I think if you adopt even one or two out of the five tips above you’ll find that your reading capacity will expand exponentially. 🙂

Ta, guys. That’s it, for now. All the best with your reading resolutions – I’m off, now, to keep up with mine. x


PS. I wrote a piece talking about ten of my recommendations for the Changi Airport site: Now Boarding, here!